One of the great things about living aboard is having access to some of the most beautiful places and often almost in seclusion. These memories and are rekindled long after we have gone and it’s what we search for at each bay, beach and island. They make me proud we are giving our girls such experiences and Hill Inlet was just such a place.
We decided we just had to see the views from the lookout looking back across Whitehaven Beach that had eluded us due to the rough seas when we tried just a week ago. The nicest place to anchor is right up Hill Inlet and it’s a bit of a trip to get to. You enter from the northern end of Whitehaven Beach but it isn’t a straight run by any stretch of the imagination. The ‘road’ in is a snaky, winding trail that can only be seen because the water is so clear. From the ocean side and with the sun low in the sky as it was when we entered at around 1600 it was difficult to see any sandbars at all. Once you began the trip in though and looked behind you, the trail was much more apparent.
I’ve said before that the Skipper must have sea water in his veins as this all comes very easily to him. I’ve learnt something new on this trip. Stop worrying if he’s not. He’d been up here before but only in a tender, this is the largest boat he has taken up and I didn’t even see him break a sweat. So I calmly take my position on the bow, one knee resting on a chair up there so I don’t fall in spectacularly and keep an eye out for the best possible passage. There isn’t just one clear and obvious run, there appears to be many. So when looking for the dark blue, deeper water, you have to remind yourself firstly not to be mesmerised by it and neglect the job at hand, but most importantly, look further up the apparent trail less it ends abruptly and leaves you stranded, high and dry, your situation obvious and embarrassing to all who pass by you later shaking their heads not least of all the skipper.
We meandered our way snaking through the water, left and right up the very shallow channel with sand bars to either side and at some points coming very close to the beach. The skipper yelling out to me on occasion for my opinion on the best way, not always taking my advice and probably rightly so, but I did feel as if I had contributed, I must be getting better at this! There were about 4 cats up the inlet already that we had to squeeze past and there wasn’t much more room at the Inn. I think we found the only place left – a nice deep hole to anchor in right at the end of the queue. We dropped anchor in about 2 metres of water and put out a stern anchor as well to hopefully hold us in the position we were in so that we wouldn’t spin around and end up on the sandbar to our left and right at some point in the middle of the night. We spent a lot of time at this spot checking tides and calculating if we would have enough room and finally convinced ourselves that we would.
The crab pots came out and the Skipper and Miss nearly 8 went up the creek while the swab and I prepared calamari from the squid we caught at Chance inlet for tea. We waited and waited for their return and right as the sky was showing it’s last bit of light they appeared to my relief. They had gone right up the creek as far as it would go and found the best places they believed for crab in the morning. Miss nearly 8 was thrilled after the ride she got as they raced back to make it before night took over. We ate calamari so fast I didn’t get a picture but don’t worry, we’ve caught another 15 (!!) squid since then so I will have plenty of chance to show you more later.
In the morning the crew went off to search for our pots and I stayed behind to prepare the breakfast. They were gone almost two hours and again, I worried like crazy. Turns out rightfully so. The high tide was not as high as the day before and they had gotten stuck a few times with the skipper having to disembark and walk my babies in the tender to higher water lest he be stuck there till the next high tide.. I would have been waiting quite a few hours not knowing if they were safe if that had happened. Regardless they got out safely and returned with 5 good size crabs. Buddy had told us how the best way to cook them was cleaned first and then in a lidded pot for ten minutes with only a cup of seawater. We did this and they turned out brilliantly. Not much gas and no fresh water wasted – happy chef!
After breakfast and preparing the crabs we took our tender up to the beach back near the opening and walked up toward the track that takes you to the lookout. The water was the kind of aqua blue people long for and the sand the purest white. As the tide went out hundreds of thousands of tiny crabs which we think are soldier crabs, were running along the beach to the children’s wildest joy. They ran after them, scooping them up and loving seeing them scatter in their thousands. It really was an amazing sight. The water was so clear around us it appeared as if it was a swimming pool with scattered sting rays clearly seen.
The walk up through the bush is beautiful with grass trees, cycads, pandanus and natives everywhere so lots to learn about here. We talked about how grass trees grow only 1cm a year, how the biology of the plant helps it grow in harsh conditions and so on. I’m glad we brought water and shoes as it’s a long hike up the mountain and I’m not that fit. The view at the top however makes it all worth while. It has to be one of the most spectacular ocean vistas I have ever laid eyes on and I thoroughly recommend it for anyone visiting the area. From so far up the track we had to take through the water is more easily seen, the water meandering through the sand bars and so crystal clear you can see the bottom from the lookout.
Our trip back in the tender was also interesting as the tide had gone right out. A few of the cats anchored before us were up high and dry and we wondered what Katsumi’s predicament would be on arrival. Turned out she had 40cm left under each hull and to the children’s utter enjoyment, the beach was easily accessible just a short swim from the back step. While they swam back and forth from our own private beach I prepared mud crabs and the skipper opened ice cold Coronas. We taught the girls how to find the meat in their own bit of crab and they are getting quite good at it too! Lucky, because I’m not sitting there peeling it for them! We ate and ate with still half a pot of crab remaining at the end.